Unlike the raft of diesel-powered green machines on the market at the moment, the Touareg is fitted with the VW groupís 328bhp supercharged petrol V6 engine Ė the same unit beneath the bonnet of Audiís A4 super-saloon. This is mated, via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, to a rear-mounted electric motor that powers the car at low speeds, drinking no fuel whatsoever and belching out zero emissions. If youíre feeling less environmentally friendly then the Touareg is equally capable of tearing up the tarmac. Gun the throttle and an extra dose of power and torque is unleashed with the engine and electric motor working in unison to create 369bhp and 406lb ft of torque. That makes for a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 149mph, which almost defies the Touaregís immense bulk.
The high riding position, plush leather seats and soft suspension all add up to a comfy ride Ė but that was a given on the standard car. The electric motor comes into its own in low-speed traffic and makes for a smooth, seamless ride, albeit a bit eerie when the revcounter is dormant and the engine silent. Swap from electric to internal combustion and the car jerks a little, but itís not ready for the showroom yet and this may well be ironed-out by production time. Cruising is easy enough thanks to the plentiful torque from the lively engine. Thereís little feel to the steering, but itís light and direct, which makes the Touareg feel more nimble than most cars of its size.
Being of Volkswagen stock, thereís no question as to whether the Touareg is well slapped together or not. The dash plastics and switchgear are typically robust and, unlike many VW interiors, the Touareg manages to add a dash of individuality to the cabin, with touches of wood and leather, as well as a more distinguished layout than its brethren.
The outgoing Touaregís tank-like road presence definitely instills a sense of security to its occupants. Itís got the figures to prove it too, with a five star Euro NCAP occupant rating and four-star child rating. All Touaregs come with six airbags, ISOFIX seating and electronic stability control as standard. Thereís also option to upgrade safety kit with blind spot warning gear and tyre pressure monitoring. Pedestrian ratings are on the poor side though, as the Touareg only musters one Euro NCAP star, which will need improving for the next generation if the VW wants a decent score in the new and improved NCAP scoring system.
It might not be able to compete with seven-seat rivals, or the hugely spacious Land Rover Discovery, but the Touareg is roomy enough, with 555 litres of boot space and split tailgate. Fold the rear bench flat and youíre looking at a van-like 1570 litres of room. The high riding position makes for excellent visibility and a towing capacity of almost 3.5 tons is pretty useful, too. Currently, the Touareg is let down by a lack of rear parking sensors as standard Ė theyíre a £445 option on most models Ė and theyíre pretty useful on a car this size, but that could change when the replacement model arrives.
Prices havenít been confirmed for the hybrid yet as itís still in the concept stages, but the current Touareg V6 costs £36,995 and itís realistic to expect a premium for the hybrid technology and powerful supercharged engine, so around £40-£45,000 is likely. Fuel economy is up to 31mpg, which isnít amazing but itís an improvement on that of the rest of the range Ė the most economical engine of the current line-up is the 2.5 TDI, which averages 28mpg. Emissions are down to 210g/km Ė again, not brilliant, but an improvement on outgoing Touaregs and not bad for a car of its bulk. The hybrid might not be the most efficient car around, but itís a step in the right direction for what has previously been a seriously thirsty car.